David Hurwitz reviews a new Haydn symphony disc from conductor Thomas Fey.
Fey is a protegé of Nikolaus Harnoncourt who started, and then abruptly abandoned, a project of recording the complete Haydn symphonies; now he's re-started it, though I have yet to find out exactly who is distributing these discs in North America, if anyone, or where I can order them without having to pay exorbitant shipping rates (when you order from Amazon.de, the shipping can sometimes cost more than the product). In the meantime, his earlier Haydn discs are available at Amazon.com.
To enjoy Fey's Haydn, you have to like a really brash, even vulgar approach to Haydn; there's none of that "Papa Haydn" geniality and cuteness that many conductors bring to this music -- like Sir Thomas Beecham, the conductor who was considered the master of Haydn interpretation and whose recordings make Haydn symphonies sound pretty and harmless. Fey and his orchestra (which uses mostly modern instruments but plays in "historically informed" style) go for extreme contrasts of tempo and dynamics, and, in symphonies that use brass and tympani, loud, knock-you-out-of-your-seat outbursts. Haydn wanted to entertain the audience, but he liked to do so by surprising and even disturbing the audience: leading them to expect one thing and doing another; changing moods very suddenly; letting the drums and brass make lots of noise at unexpected moments. That's the Haydn that Thomas Fey brings out, and hopefully he'll get around to recording all the symphonies as originally planned.